State to appeal DNA ruling in Florida deer poaching

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State to appeal DNA ruling in deer case.

Collier County judge threw out evidence in hearing Monday

By DENES HUSTY III, Ft. Myers News Press.
dhusty@news-press.com

Prosecutors said Tuesday they’re appealing a judge’s decision to throw out DNA evidence in a test deer poaching case.

Prosecutors hoped to use DNA tests to link the deer’s blood to blood found on the clothes and ATVs of three men accused of killing the animal out of season in July 2000 near Immokalee.

It was viewed as a test case because the animal DNA tests being offered as evidence had never been used in trials in Florida.

Other poaching defendants have always entered pleas instead of going to trial in cases where the DNA tests were used, said AnnMarie Clark, who developed the tests for the University of Florida’s genetics lab.

The three defendants — Dave Cetina II, 31, and Yosvani Pinero, 25, both of Golden Gate Estates, and Robert Ramos, 20, of Immokalee — face up to a year in jail and fines of $3,000 if they are ultimately convicted at a trial.

Collier County Judge Vince Murphy threw out the evidence in a hearing Monday.

Murphy found that prosecutors didn’t give defense attorneys information about the lab’s database used to link the deer’s blood to the blood on the men until last week.

That ruling is being appealed to a panel of three local circuit judges, said Assistant State Attorney Michael Stone. The appeal could take six months to a year.

Assistant State Attorney Amira Dajani-Sweat said prosecutors forwarded the database information to defense attorneys as soon as they received it from the lab. The trial should have been postponed instead of having the DNA evidence thrown out, she said.

“We feel the DNA evidence is something the jury should consider,” although a trial could be held without it because there is other evidence in the case, Dajani-Sweat said.

Murphy said the trial already had been continued four times at the request of prosecutors. He said it would be unfair to the defense to postpone it again.

Defense attorney Donald Day said he thinks the circuit judges will uphold Murphy’s ruling.

Prosecutors admitted the evidence wasn’t turned over to the defense in a timely manner as required under rules of court procedure, Day said.

Under those rules, a judge has the discretion to exclude the evidence or delay the trial to give defense attorneys a chance to review it, Day said.
 


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